Earlier this year, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists estimated that India has 160 nuclear warheads that can be delivered by aircraft, land-based ballistic missiles, and sea-based ballistic missiles—a small nuclear triad. How and why India developed nuclear energy and weapons programs in the midst of the Cold War is the subject of Jayita Sarkar’s fascinating and revealing book Ploughshares and Swords.
The fighting on Borneo during World War II is often forgotten because in the larger picture of the Pacific War it was relatively insignificant compared to the battles in New Guinea, the Philippines, and smaller islands of the central Pacific and southwest Pacific. The fighting on Borneo occurred near the end of the war between March and September 1945. Most of the heavy fighting took place on the small island of Tarakan, along the east coast near Balikpapan, and in Northern Borneo along the coast near Laubuan.
In mid-June 2020, Indian and Chinese forces clashed in the mountainous north-western portion of the Sino-Indian border in the Galwan River valley in Ladakh, resulting in scores of casualties, including twenty Indian and four Chinese deaths. Each side eventually deployed about 50,000 troops to this freezing battlefield located 14,000 feet above sea level. Both sides quickly deescalated, but the clash upended years of diplomatic efforts to resolve the long-simmering border dispute. Indian journalist Manoj Joshi’s new book Understanding the India-China Border provides details of the clash, historical insight into the causes of the fighting, and places the longtime Sino-Indian border dispute in the context of global geopolitics.
In 2012, Murali Ranganathan, a historian and translator of Gujarati and Marathi, came across the memoir of Nariman Karkaria, a Parsi from Gujarat, titled Rangbhoomi par Rakhad, published in 1922. The book recounts Karkaria’s travels throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, and his experiences in the First World War. The memoir, Murali Ranganathan writes, “is the only Indian war memoir from the First World War to have been discovered thus far.” Though initially skeptical of Nariman Karkaria’s story, and unable to independently confirm the accounts of Karkaria’s war experiences, Ranganathan believes the accounts therein are genuine.
The World War II fighting on Mindanao, the southernmost and second-largest island of the Philippine archipelago, rarely gets mentioned in conventional histories of the Pacific War, even in those histories that focus on the battles in the Philippines. Still less do those histories recount the heroic struggle of the Moro resistance fighters who conducted a costly insurgency against the conquering armies of Imperial Japan from 1942 to 1945. Thomas McKenna, an anthropologist who lived and worked in Moro communities on Mindanao, tells the story of one of the unsung heroes of the resistance, Mohammad Adil, in his new and groundbreaking book Moro Warrior.
Sometimes the further away in time you get from an event, the clearer it becomes. Time often enables historians to learn more facts and circumstances about, and fosters a more dispassionate view of, historical events like wars. The Vietnamese wars against France in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and against the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, have far too frequently been analyzed through ideological and political lenses, with both sides ignoring or downplaying facts that do not fit within their ideological-political agendas. The greatest merit of Christoper Goscha’s splendid history of the First Indochina War (1945-1954) is his unsparing devotion to letting facts inform his assessments and conclusions.
The world is still dealing with the consequences of the 1979 Iranian revolution in which the pro-American, pro-Western Shah of Iran was replaced by an Islamic regime that subsequently attempted to spread its influence throughout the Middle East and beyond, and acquire a nuclear arsenal. The causes of that revolution have been debated for many years and far too often analysts have provided superficial or simplified explanations ranging from the Shah’s repressive rule to America’s flawed diplomacy. In The Last Shah, Iran expert Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations presents a more balanced, nuanced treatment of the history of US-Iranian relations from World War II to the fall of the Shah that explores the many and varied factors that led to revolution.